A morning in Goa begins with reports of the road accidents of the previous day. A mother and child run over, an elderly gentleman the victim of a ‘hit-and-run’ and a variety of accidents that causes both loss of life and property. There have been several studies to check the state of the roads, the behaviour of drivers and other statistics that would help initiate remedial action. Every day a new speed breaker or pedestrian crossing is added somewhere in the State. These measures have done little for the safety of people on the road.

The rules of the road in Goa broadly reflect what is prevalent in other states in India. Roads in Goa are at different elevations and drivers have to content with both uphill and downhill driving. It is a universal rule that traffic going downhill must always give right of way to uphill traffic. This elementary principle has not been part of the driver training or testing. Both two and four-wheeler vehicles speed down a slope making it difficult for an uphill driver to stay on the road.

Another global rule is that vehicles joining a main road from a feeder or service road or lane must come to a stop at the point of entry into the main road. They need to look right and left and then proceed to join the traffic. This rule has been wrongly communicated to the drivers. People excel in speeding on to the main road from every lane – it is a frightening experience to watch two wheelers and bullish car drivers join the main stream as a birthright! Those on the main road are traumatised! There are no STOP signs at the head of any main road in Goa!

Every two-wheeler driver dreads having to put his foot down on the ground. It breaks the speed and momentum and upsets the fine balance. Putting the foot down on a slope is a manoeuvre that is more dangerous. It impacts everything, and disturbs the equanimity of both the driver and the team of four on the pillion. It is even more perilous when he may be carrying a ladder, a full-grown pig, a gas cylinder or a 50- kilo bag of rice. Two wheelers are today both salon cars and goods vehicles rolled into one and that calls for special road rules. Can two wheelers overtake from both right and left?

What makes it more difficult for a two wheeler to stop and proceed is the state of the road after a hot mix treatment. Each hot mix treatment raises the elevation of the road by a few centimetres and creates a sheer drop at the edge of a road – no one is bothered about the effects the hot mix treatment has on the safety of drivers and the difference in height between the main road and the shoulder. Differences in road and shoulder level of roads are fraught with serious danger.

Drivers have no respect for a pedestrian crossing – it’s time to brainstorm and see how this can be inculcated specially in front of schools, colleges and hospitals when pedestrians are on the crossing.

Drivers also experience confusion at some junctions and at roundabouts. A simple white circle in the middle of the road will make all the difference to a confused driver. The rules of the roundabout are not clear to many drivers. Roads in Goa could also do with more ‘Keep Left’ signs.

It is perhaps time to re-train the trainers and also get to know what they are communicating to students of driving. Training of new drivers needs to be more safety-oriented and testing more stringent.

There’s a lot more – texting or phoning and driving, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, stopping without signaling and the unbearable high beam at night!

One hopes that the country has a book of standards for both national and state roads. It is time to make these standards public so that citizens can understand what they have and monitor where standards have been compromised.

A planned approach and Goa can be a safe state even before being a smart one!